Eat more bread!September 10, 2006
Despite the fact that my husband’s yeast nursery is ugly and disturbing, I still manage to choke down — no, devour — the bread that results from it.
Better still, with advice gleaned from more expert bread bakers, he’s managed to improve the yeasty offerings this time around. The bread is still dense, but it has a bright, sour flavor and a delicious chewy crust that yields to a yummy interior that’s a perfect vehicle for soft melted butter. (Is there any better pairing to fresh, hot delicious bread than butter? I think not. But I’m willing to be enlightened. Send suggestions and I’ll eat them.)
He’s calling it Sourdough 2.0, and unlike most sequels, it’s actually better than the original. And since the results are yet another improvement, I’m hoping that this bread is a trilogy — or, perhaps like Rocky, just goes on forever until the main character drops dead.
Here we are again inside the MHC Test Kitchen with with sourdough bread. We got a great deal of advice in the 1.0 phase and it was well appreciated. So here is 2.0.
I have not yet made my potato flake starter, but I continued to let my dough starter mature. My wife is now thoroughly frightened by the living organism hidden away in a kitchen corner.
How have I maintained my starter? Well, I’ve fed it and kept my yeast clean. (Wife: Snicker, snicker.) This means I’ve added a little bit of flour every day, a bit of water now and then, and removed any skin that covers the surface of the mix. I likely have a bit too much water in it now, so you’ll note I used a large amount of the starter. It has a nice alcohol smell, closer to a rich beer than to pure grain alcohol. My wife finds it foul, I find it exciting. (Though I don’t mean she should take up wearing it as a perfume. It’s not that kind of exciting in the least!)
The result of this effort was based on suggestions in the previous comments section. Both Clair of Cooking is Medicine and Sean gave me excellent advice. So this time I did a bit more research and modified my techniques using their suggestions.
I cranked up the heat to 500F and added boiling water in an oven-safe dish to allow the oven to be a nice humid home for the bread. As I read, this allows the outside of the bread to form a crust more slowly and lets the bread expand more. The effect was very much the case here.
The result overall was superior to sourdough bread 1.0. However, I think I need better development of the interior of the bread. Right now, it has a few large bubbles that might have been the result of me being hasty in my kneading before bench proofing. I would also love to see the development of a chewier, less dense structure. But that only means that 2.1 or 3.0 are on the horizon, and my poor wife will have to tolerate my yeast nursery for a bit longer.
So everyone, keep your comments and ideas coming.
Sourdough Bread 2.0:
2 cups bread flour
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. water
1 pinch salt
1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine flour, water, salt and ¼ cup of warm water.
2. After the ingredients have been integrated, switch to the dough hook and add half the remaining water.
3. Here is the kicker… I can’t tell you exactly how much water you need or don’t need. You can slowly add the water and you may need to add a bit of flour. You are looking for a tacky, soft feel that, when you squeeze it, slowly springs back into its shape. While in the mixer, it should leave no flour on the sides of the bowl, and it should likely stick a little to the bottom.
4. Once you have that consistency, allow the dough hook to knead it on a setting close to high for approximately 5 minutes. You are looking for the dough to have a smooth and somewhat glossy consistency.
5. In a large bowl, coat the dough in olive oil, cover the bowl with a towel, and place in warm place to rise for 3 hours.
7. Afterward, knead for approximately 3 minutes by hand. Mold the loaf to conform to your desired shape. Let rest for 1 hour. This is called bench proofing. In about 40 minutes, preheat your oven to 500 degrees, and add boiling water to an oven-safe dish that you place on your oven’s top rack.
8. Time for the egg wash. This step is not necessary in the scheme of things, but it gives the bread its beautiful color. In a small dish or cup, beat together the egg, water and salt. Paint on with a brush.
9. On a pizza stone, bake the bread in the oven for approximately for 30-40 min. You are looking for a nice golden crust.
10. Remove the bread from the oven when it has a nice dark golden brown exterior. Let cool for at least 15 min. Serve. Enjoy!